Beach bums and burger buns - the Costa Verde

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December 15th 2011
Published: December 15th 2011
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Ok, last ever blog from a grey, glum-looking Rio. The sun has barely shone here, but the beautiful Costa Verde coast has definitely made up for it. Looking forward to seeing everyone at Christmas and glad to see the back of our backpacks, grimey hostels and SA scumbags, but we'll definitely miss this way of life!

09/12/11- After publishing our last blog in Paraty, we returned to the pousada for crackers and a poolside beer before catching a minibus to Penha village. We were dropped off next to a church perched on top of a massive boulder, and walked down to an even bigger boulder in the river, creating a crazy natural water slide! Lunatics sometimes surf down this monstrous rock (there's even an annual world cup!), but we only saw people sliding down it. Olie was caught in a terrible predicament - slide down in his 'chips' boxers and walk around wet for the rest of the dreary day or miss out on the experience. To my suprise (under pressure from me to hurry up and make a decision) he walked away. We then visited Engenho D'Ouro cachaca distillery. Paraty is one of the key cachaca producing towns in Brazil, so much so that cachaca was originally called Paratii. After trying a selection of various cachaca´s including aged, fruity and the famous Gabriella (cinamon and cloves), we stocked up as much as our backpacks would allow and then headed back for a swim in the rain. That eve we treated ourselves to an increasingly rare night out! Ate esfihas (Arabic pizza-like flat breads) at a recommended Arabic restaurant. Cheap and tasty.

10/12/11 - Needed cash for Ilha Grande (no banks/ATMs on the island), so did another 40min round trip and withdrew the last of our funds. Our lovely pousada owner then gave us a lift to the bus stop because he didn't want us walking with all our bags in the rain. We then clung to our lives on a 1.5hr trip to Angra dos Reis, where the bus driver attempted to take the narrow windy roads like an F1 driver. The ferry to Abraao (main town on Ilha Grande) was another 1.5hrs and after walking uphill to our pousada we were greeted by 7 cats! Stinking cold combined with cat allergy made for a pretty sneezy stay.

Ilha Grande is 200 sq km of lush rainforest and stunning beaches. It is a protected area with strict development regulations and a car free island. There are over 150km of clearly signposted hiking trails around the island, and it therefore lends itself well to tourism. That afternoon we set off on the smallest trail, along the NW coastal path. Passed a 19th century aquaduct, an old farmhouse which was coverted into a quarantine house for immigrants (to check for cholera) and finally a penal colony prison. Pretty lookout points, natural pools and yet more giant boulders. The walk made us excited about the next few days, where the weather forecast was set to improve! At last. That night, without cooking facilities, we finally made it to one of Brazils many 'pay by the kilo' buffet joints. Looked cheap at $3R/kg. However, we didn't anticipate that we'd be charged for the use of potentially the worlds heaviest plates!

Olie in...

11/12/11 - Woke up to the usual coverage of thick grey cloud, but undetered we headed to Dois Rios (Two Rivers) beach on the opposite side of the island. As well as the lovely beach sandwiched between two rivers, Dois Rios is also the site of the old prison that used to be home to some of Brazils most notorious criminals. Ilha Grande was a Brazilian ´Alcatraz´ until about 1960, when the prisons closed and the island opened to tourism. For this reason the 18km round trip that we were embarking upon is knowns as Penal Way and is the exact route that soldiers used to march the prisoners - very interesting (I think?). Back to the present - we took a slightly trecherous steep shortcut to start the trail, but everything after that was easy going and we were even accompanied some of the way by a friendly pack of squirrel monkeys. The beach was gorgeous - only a handful of people there and spread over 1km of white sand. Just before we arrived our prayers were answered and every cloud in the sky disappeared. We soon realised what all the fuss was about as the picture perfect contrast of bright blue sky, lush green jungle and crystal clear sea was finally evident. We spent the day alternating between a hot beach, warm river and freezing sea, before heading down the beach for a quick peek at the old prison. After a can of coke (each - a rare treat!) we made our way back to Abraao, stopping for a refreshing dip at the soldiers pool (a natural rock pool where soldiers would cool off and have a drink between journeys) and taking another shortcut through a bamboo covered path - very pretty. Went out for the cheesiest pizza ever, a beer and then back to the hostel to plan our next day.

Emma back in...

12/12/11 - Final 'excursion' - boat trip to Lagoa Azul (blue lagoon), which is supposedly the best spot for snorkelling around the island. As usual, we'd invested time hunting out the cheapest deal, so we were pleasantly suprised by the spacious boat. It was a beautiful sunny day and the coastal views around the various bays were gorgeous. The snorkelling wasn't as impressive as we'd hoped and Olie ended up having an absolute nightmare. It was a classic 'I told you so' moment...he was getting over excited about cannon balling into the water. He then wondered around the boat for about 10mins with his mask and snorkel on. I warned him he'd lose them, but he jumped right in moments later and I spotted the black plastic apparatus slowly sinking. Shouting at him to grab them was to no avail. They'd gone. I jumped in and searched, but it was too deep and then currents had obviously dragged them away and probably buried them. He felt a bit silly, so I kept my mouth shut and we swam around sharing my mask. Olie then climbed up some rocks and cut his finger on a barnacle, with blood pouring out of his finger, he swam back to the boat and then realised his self-made ring from Ecuador had fallen off! We were glad we did the trip because the boat journey was very pretty, and we stopped at a couple of lovely beaches.

Spent the afternoon arguing with the guy who'd rented out the snorkels. We wanted to pay for losing the equipment, but he was asking for an absurd amount. Since there are no banks, we didn't have that kind of cash - still needed to eat and get the boat back to mainland! I don't think he appreciated me banging on about how he should account for the obvious risks in running a business of that nature. He wanted us to pay for his boat ride back to the mainland as well as the overpriced mask. Anyway, he lost it, wouldnt even accept the reasonable amount of money we were offering and started insinuating that we'd pay another way (whilst ringing 'mates'😉. How have we ended up in so many of these situations?! In the end, we had to go and speak to someone at the boat company, so they could be 'mediator' and try and rationalise with the guy. We got a bit off the original asking price and after traipsing back and forth from the hostel a few times, 'pretended' we'd borrowed money off people at the hostel (after proclaiming we didn't have any more, we couldnt go back on our word). Anyway, the moral of that story is Olie is no longer allowed to snorkel! That eve we went to the bakery for another sandwich/burger and stayed in to save the last of our cash. Olies bad luck didn't end there...about 2am I awoke to a thundering boom and discovered Olie down the bottom of the stairs (we were staying in a stinky, damp split level room...bed on mezz, bathroom on ground). His shoulder had been hurting, so he'd sleepily headed downstairs to find some painkillers and had slipped halfway. He'll go to extreme lengths to make me get him some painkillers! I rushed out of bed and found him with a sore leg and shoulder! Bad day for Olie. (He's fine now - all aches and pains have subsided).

Both in... using our combined brain power...oh boy!

13/12/11 - Sunny again! Followed a c.20km roundtrip trail to Lopes Mendes - rumoured to be Brazils best beach. Stopped at Palmas beach enroute and passed several other pretty bays. Saw some more squirrel monkeys with stripey tails and a squirrel with a ginormous nut. The uneven slopes and slippery mud paths didn't lend itself well to flip flops, and inevitably one of us had to go. Fortunately for Olie after his previous day, it was me who fell - resulting in a sprained ankle. We limped onward, and finally made it to the stunning 3km strech of powder white, squeaky sand. It was suprisingly empty for such a touted beach and lived up to the hype. The waves are pretty strong, so although you cant swim (but can surf), we spent the day dipping in and out of the sea and sunbathing in the baking heat. Actually, I had to spend the day in the shade it was THAT hot. Olie battled through. Enjoyed a pack lunch and the worlds most expensive can of coke and at about 5pm we had to drag ourselves away and begin the trek back. Despite a sprained ankle, 2 huge blisters, a rotten cold, a dodgy shoulder and a sore knee, we made it back before sunset. We were overtaken by pretty much everyone, but we didnt care. Wish we could go back to that beach - it was amazing!

14/12/11 - Boring travel day. Walk, boat, 3 buses, walk and we were finally back in Rio. Classic South America moment - when we were approached by a one-armed man claiming he could get us back to Rio for $50R each (cheaper than the bus!), which immediately doubled when we got to his car. In hindsight we realised we didn´t really want to be driven all the way back to Rio by a man with one arm - probably sounds a bit harsh, but its true! This time we were in Botafogo, a very pretty bay with fabulous views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ Redeemer on a clear day. It wasnt a clear day! Final eve was celebrated with TWO beers in a local plastic chair cafe.

15/12/11 - It´s all over. No money, no sun and a flight at midnight. We´ll see you all soon! xxxx


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